“It was very scary. The entire thought of going through the procedure to be clean. The most shocking thing was the news of pregnancy which came along a huge wave of mixed emotions. How has it ever been easy for a woman since time immemorial? You break walls, ceilings and smash the societal norms, crawl through the alienation, and injustices and then you hail. You do hail but carrying along with the badges of problems, the scars, the wounds very deep.
It was never exciting to go through an abortion. What a woman goes through is something a person who has gone through it can fathom. I was glad to feel the butterflies in the tummy, for real. Two tiny legs and two tiny hands. And a fist so small and webbed tiny fingers. The rapid fast heartbeat, that rang in my ears all day and all night. I knew it would come to an end.
And I knew the storm was right there to pound upon me and wash away all that I had. But for a moment, just for some moments, I felt like the most strengthened being to gear myself up and to fight this alone. I was dying and burning inside; I screamed and howled but it was only the empty walls who gave me company in those dreadful mornings. For a moment I wished I could drop everything and run away to somewhere and have the unborn. But at this, my other world would come crashing and I was in a fix to not let go of that. It sounded so selfish as it could, I grieved on myself and hated myself for reasons unknown.
I decided to father the tiny little butterfly and I decide to have the best days of my life with it, till we were separated and let it fly up. It sends chills down my spine, a lump in the throat, even now and tears trying to burst out, a pain in the heart so big that it consumed me every day, killed me every night.
The fight was never easy. 5 hospitals turned me down, all alone with health reports piling on the table, ultrasound pictures lying on the bed. And I remember I saw it moving, and I giggled and felt an emotion which I can never put into words. I don’t have any word to describe the feeling in my dictionary. For the first time, I felt the value of my mom, of any mom, the strength of a woman, a power so strong embedded under my skin. A fire that burned me alive.
I got to see the harsh reality of government hospitals, judgmental doctors, unaware hospital staff, the business strategies of private hospitals, profit-seeking doctors, money mongers etc. And this saddens me because in 1971, abortion was decriminalized in India under the MTP Act. But the sad truth is half the population thinks abortion and female foeticide is the same thing. Many think that abortion is still illegal in India. And the battle after the abortion is like a second death one goes through.”
My encounter with Verbie and my conversation with her was indeed a deep one. Based entirely on empathetic feelings and friendship, it has set into my heart. I knew the battle she fought was of an anti-society, independent young woman. She probably knew that if she chose to keep the child she would have to go through the grief of so many things and through so many people. She would have to deal with the fear of her own life and the fear of her parents’. Either way was hard, as one can imagine. It is very easy for us to be on the other side and pass judgment, and give suggestions and talk about probable situations and give biased pieces of advice. But it is never easy in the shoes of that woman who goes through it and yet we choose to prick her more.
The hospitals and doctors who deny a woman’s rights to be pro-life or pro-choice, a doctor who isn’t aware of the legality of carrying the foetal remains by the mother for burial or other ceremonies, to hospitals who make patients wait and the staff which is rude and wouldn’t even let a pregnant lady sit on the nurses tool to tie her shoelaces, I pity you. I don’t know how you got the privilege to work for people and provide service to mankind.
In India, 13 women die every day due to unsafe abortions, and why do you think this happens? It’s us, who make it so difficult for some women to ensure safe abortions. It’s the private clinics, who charge an amount so high for performing safe and secure abortions that makes it impossible for women to reap the benefits. I stand here questioning myself and asking who to blame – the society, the people, our parents or our relatives or ourselves for not abiding what we were taught till now.
Change is a distant dream. We sit here and just hope. And we sit and shut women who have the spark, we throw mud and dirt on women who make their own choices. And the most indigestible part? We, women, are the first ones to point fingers at other women and bring them down.
Note: Names have been changed and are not relevant to any person alive or dead.